View Full Version : Can They Do This?

07-16-2005, 10:05 AM
Question for all you travel experts out there.

This didn't happen to me (I would have been livid), but I was in the airport when it was announced and even though I wasn't on that flight, I was angry.

Last week, I was at DFW waiting for my flight back to Boston. While sitting at the gate, an announcement was made at the next gate that the flight they were boarding was being delayed until 10:00pm (this was at approximately 7:15, original flight time was 7:43) due to weather. After the groans, the announcement continued to say that because they needed the gate, that they were going to have to board the plane as if it were an ontime departure and then sit the plane on the ramp. It was then recommended that passengers visit one of the handy airport food vendors.

Can they do that? Can they force you board a plane knowing its going to be sitting on the tarmac for 2 hours?


07-16-2005, 10:23 AM
WOW--never heard that one, and I an not sure they can "force" you to do it. But if it was weather related, the gate may have been needed for an incoming flight so this plane would need to be moved, and if there was not another gate available...

I might be inclined to ask James Wysong about this--he might have an airlnie perspective

07-16-2005, 02:03 PM
Seems to me they could just pull the aircraft back from the gate for the other plane, but that may have delayed the departure more waiting for the other aircraft to move out. There are just so many gate slots, and weather can make it difficult to juggle them. In any case, departing from the gate 'on time' does not make the flight on-time. It also measured by take off time and arrival time.

07-18-2005, 04:59 PM
Moderator Edit: This is a reply from James Wysong, our up in the sky Tripso columnist. Apparently he is grounded right now in the UK (Jwf)

I am in London in an internet cafe as I write this so I will be brief. Unfortunately, the airlines can and often do this. I am not sure if it is incredibly stupid or admirably honest that they informed the passengers with the blunt truth. Most of the time they will push back and wait for a last minute slot to open up. Several times I have been informed by the cockpit that we were probably not going anywhere but the company needed the gate. So we pushed back and waited upwards to three hours. I guess in their eyes, they aren't forcing you. You could always refuse to go. It's a cop out and I don't buy it either.
James Wysong

07-18-2005, 05:58 PM
Thanks for the reply.

But still, can't they push the plane back out of the way, and then regate it closer to the "real" departure time?

I would think given the amount of negative publicity that most airlines are getting lately, that anything they could do to show some improved customer service would be a good thing.

Telling you that you will be sitting in a plane on the tarmac for two hours is not one of them.

07-18-2005, 06:16 PM
Thing is, if there are not enough gates available, either outboound or inbound flights will sit on the tarmac. This I would trust to the airline to decide which is better overall, as some people will be inconvenienced regardless... Which is better service, telling inbound passengers they have to sit there for two hours before they can taxi to the gate or tell the outbound they will sit there for 2 hours before they take the active? A toss up.

07-18-2005, 07:22 PM
The airline did the right thing (I'm an ex-gate agent). In advising you before you boarded, if you have any problems with the delay, you could choose to change your reservation to a later date. Change fees may or may not be waived. But at least you were advised ahead of time. Since it was a weather delay, gate space is very limited during an OSO (off-schedule operation). Airports do not have lots of stairways or shuttle buses to be able to take passengers to and from the planes. Much less being able to accomodate all the passengers in the terminal.

If it was your outbound flight for the start of your trip, you could make the choice to stay and get on the plane and hope that the flight is not further delayed while you are on the tarmack. Or change your reservation, pay the fee if it's not waived, and gone home. If it was your return, you could board like above, or extended a hotel stay until the next day.......hoping weather is better by then.

Believe me, the airport agents are just as anxoius to get the passengers going on-time as you, the passenger, are. It is not fun being an agent during bad weather. We are at the mercy of mother nature too. You can guarantee that all h--- breaks lose and tempers start flying.

07-19-2005, 09:45 AM
I can understand that Stacy, but there should be a better solution in place. Who really wants to sit on a plane for hours cramped up in their seat and not going anywhere?
Talk about pushing passengers patience to the limit!
I myself have been 'stuck' on a plane for lengthy periods, not going anywhere. Personally, I have a hard time with it because I start feeling claustrophobic. :(

07-19-2005, 09:50 AM
And the air gets "airless" very quickly - especially if you have allergies.....

07-19-2005, 10:25 AM
I worked at DFW airport. When you have weather delays, diverted flights to your airport, too many flights on the ground, not enough gates, not enough stairways, not any buses that aren't already being utilized by the commuter aircrafts, too many people, not enough terminal space, and hotel rooms selling out........there are not very many other alternatives. The only other alternative is to spend the night in the terminal and hope it's not any worse in the morning. But it will be because it's a domino effect from the night before. And if you've never spent the night in a terminal with not enough blankets and pillows, it no picnic. You have to end up choosing the best alternative to the "tons of evil". It makes me nauseous just thinking about it and I haven't worked for the airlines in over 8 years.

07-19-2005, 04:24 PM
My son had to stay overnight in Newark airport when he was 20 years old. I was glad that he was 6 feet tall. He sort of attached himself to the side of a big family group so it looked like he was with them. He only had about $20 with him. All the airline gave him was 3 $3 food vouchers. At least I had bought him a magazine before he left Albany. He was on his way to Austin.

07-21-2005, 03:36 PM
No Gate Available at LAX :unsure:

Late one Thursday evening in September of 1999, my husband and I were passengers on a UAL 747, from Honlulu to Los Angeles. We landed and the captain announced that we would be arriving at Gate 69. Great! We were anticipating a layover of about one-and-one half hours, which would be enough time to attend to our "food" and "water" needs, before another long flight to Boston.

The airplane approached our assigned gate area but stopped short and held there for ten or so minutes. Of course, by this time, everyone was itching to deplane, and a significant number of us had to make connections.

The captain's next announcement was not welcome news. Apparently our jumbo jet was too big for gate 69, and no other gates were open that could accomodate the big one! The only solution was to taxi over to the United Airlines hangar area and deplane there! WHAT?! Ever so slowly, we taxied quite a distance over to the hangar area, and there we sat for about a half-hour, all the while getting anxious on behalf of a very large group of passengers who were in danger of missing their flight to Germany. Our crew requested that our Germany-bound passengers be given the right-of-way to deplane first, and to my amazement, there were no arguments among the other passengers. I must add that our flight attendants on this flight were top-notch, and their skilled methods of handling a 747 full of passengers were truly amazing! Not once did I hear a raised voice or see anything near a potential conflict. The captain announced that he contacted someone at Lufthansa and requested that they hold their plane until our connecting passengers arrived. Most of us got so involved in their plight that we forgot our own! We wished them good luck and bid them farewell.

After this long, hot delay several busses arrived to transport us, Lufthansa passengers first, back to the terminal building. We had to use an old, rickety stairway in very dark conditions to exit the aircraft, I with a hole in my right heel (lost a fight with coral), and the gentleman in front of me who had bad knees - such fun.

When we arrived at the terminal building, we had to RUN to catch our plane to Boston. Actually, I did an odd looking run-limp! We made it to our gate with literally less than 30 seconds to spare! We sat down, buckled in, and our aircraft departed. We did, however, stop momentarily as we were backing away from the gate. A cargo hatch door opened then closed, and we were on our way.

My husband and I had Pay Day candy bars and Twizzlers for "dinner," but we made our flight and we were happy. I spent a lot of time during our flight to Boston wondering where our luggage would end up - on our plane, that's where!!!! The cargo hatch door opened so that someone could put OUR luggage on board the aircraft!! :D

I was stunned. The United Airlines baggage handlers who worked that late-night shift were awesome!! Can anyone tell me how they managed to send our luggage on our flight to Boston? :)

The circumstances of that evening were less than ideal, but thanks to some veteran, professional, and dedicated United Airlines employees, we made it home and no worse for the wear, really.

Does this scenairo occur very often?